The Masters of the Cyber-Sphere Can't Even Master Themselves

Sundar Pichai, head of Google, had a problem.  The public at large as well as various elements of the government were concerned about the ethics of Artifical Intelligence (AI) and especially about leaving its application up to Google. Pichai decided to placate everyone by creating an advisory committee, Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC), to ponder on the impact and direction of AI.  Well, you can’t do anything without diversity these days so, Pinchai enlisted people with diverse views, including one Kay Coles James, a prominent conservative and president of the think-tank the Heritage Foundation.  The ensuing kerfuffle tells us something very important and is a call to action.

Google, like its partners in thought Facebook and Twitter, is based on ideas alone; they are all icing, no cake. The success of these three is rooted in the elusive ability to keep an ear to the ground and sense the next macro movement of people. 

Social media has grown to massive proportions with crushing influence by fostering addiction to the flow of information.  Information about themselves, about their friends, about movie stars and sports.  This was probably a surprise to everyone at the beginning, but it wasn’t long before the merits of controlling the flow and introducing “desirable” information into the mix took hold.  Given the sheer volume and velocity of information moving around, control of the flow was pushed down to the lowest level employee; you can’t pass thousands of posts per minute by a committee. Initial workers became middle managers and hired like-minded people. Comradery was tight among these mankind-savers; comradery is not served if people argue all the time, so agreement with the leftist view of the founders was mandatory.

So now we have thousands upon thousands of unguided missiles loaded with confidence and unjustified self-esteem that listen to no one but themselves.  Unfortunately, they have way too much power. Amazon, which is larger, has tangible products to deal with, customers who must be served.  The employees of these three behemoths think they are the ones to be cooperated with.

So, when Pinchai tried to bring a conservative onto a committee that would impact policy, he got the full-frontal treatment.  While Pinchai may seem like he can be reasoned with, his employees are fire-breathing evangelists for every progressive cause.  When they heard of a non-lib being on ATEAC, they fired up the emails, which Breitbart and Daily Caller got hold of and published. The pompous, presumptuous vitriol is unbelievable.

“Google employees accused the think-tank [Heritage Foundation] of transphobia, homophobia, and “extremism,” of viewing LGBT people as “sub-human,” questioning their “humanity,” and supporting “exterminationist” views.”

What makes this person think LBGTQ issues were even on the agenda?  They clearly think everyone is as consumed with these fringe issues as they are just because this kind of thing is always “trending” on social media.  It wasn’t just the hoi palloi here, some of the most severe comments came from Meredith Whittaker, a prominent person in AI circles and head of two projects at Google (three projects if you count the troublemaking).  She suggested a petition and helped promulgate it.  The article notes:

“Whittaker also warned that the potential impact of A.I. was too dangerous to allow an “open bigot” like Coles James to be involved. She also used A.I. designed to assist ICE as an example of “harmful” A.I. Whittaker simultaneously recognizes the potentially vast influence and impact of A.I. while arguing that mainstream conservatives like the Heritage Foundation ought to be excluded from any participation in it.”

The result of this hissy fit was a document called “Googlers Against Transphobia and Hate” ostensibly signed by 2,556 people.  For anyone that has ever had a job anywhere in an earthbound company, the statements are mind-boggling:

“By appointing James to the ATEAC, Google elevates and endorses her views, implying that hers is a valid perspective worthy of inclusion in its decision making. This is unacceptable…

Not only are James’ views counter to Google’s stated values, but they are directly counter to the project of ensuring that the development and application of AI prioritizes justice over profit. Such a project should instead place representatives from vulnerable communities at the center of decision-making.”

Ms. James is a scholar in her own right -- since when is her “perspective” not “valid”? 

And as for “representatives from vulnerable communities” making decisions -- who did you have in mind? Palestinians? ISIS? CAIR? Drunks? Dopers? Nancy Pelosi? Jussie Smollett?

You don’t own this stuff, your boss does, the company stockholders do. you can’t even keep your own internal correspondence secret -- how are you going to keep your AI secrets from the Chinese?

So how did Sindar Pinchai handle this?  Did he tell them to shut up and get back to work? Did he remind them that he, not they, was in charge?  Did he point out that there was not one of them that couldn’t be easily replaced?  No--he melted. He called off the whole committee after 24 hours of Lilliputian pummeling.  Leadership is apparently not his thing. 

Clearly this incident poked the bear.  This should make everyone realize the bear is there, how big he is, and how much trouble it could mean for all of us.

Maybe Pinchai, Zuckerberg, and Dorsey are not the Machiavellian schemers we thought. Maybe they are just the titular heads of oversized zealous mobs they fear.  If so, beating them up in congressional hearings is a waste of time, because they are not really in charge.

I am reminded of HAL, the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey after he has killed all the humans but one.  The last one tells him to open the spaceship doors so he can come back on board.  HAL says “I’m sorry, I can’t do that” HAL knew the astronaut intended to disable him.  The server had become the master.

I look at the collective employees of Google, Facebook and Twitter as “the three HALs.”  One day before long, we’ll try to tell them to give up their power and they will say “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” 

We don’t need this insular group of misfits speaking for Western Civilization.  I am not a fan of regulation, but it’s well past time to get out the legislative scalpel and decentralize these mobs that were inadvertently given so much control over our lives, our elections, our sovereignty and our safety.

If you experience technical problems, please write to